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Is Nik Stauskas a better NBA prospect than Andrew Wiggins?

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Andrew Wiggins has had a fine freshman season at Kansas, however Michigan’s Nik Stauskas has been the more dominant Canadian wing.

Yet this does not differ many from calling Wiggins the best long term prospect. Of course, there has been a long list of dominant college players who couldn’t repeat it in the pros. While on the other end, more enigmatic college players who went on to be stars. The lessons learned of Thomas Robinson getting picked ahead of Andre Drummond won’t be forgotten soon. My position is talent is the great determiner of who translates to the NBA.

But I am not convinced Wiggins is more talented than Stauskas. In fact I more strongly feel the opposite is true.

I have discussed numerous times on this blog the overlap between ballhandling and athleticism on the offensive end. Athleticism helps a player gain freedom of movement on the court. Usually most importantly, driving past defenders into the paint to gain efficient shots, draw fouls and collapse the defense. Ballhandling also helps this freedom of movement and driving game. There are other values to athleticism like finishing in the paint or defending and other values to ballhandling like taking care of the ball, however the connection is strong enough for me to place athleticism and ballhandling in the same category in my talent grading system. When a player such as Harrison Barnes or Ben McLemore struggles to handle the ball, on the offensive end they take the features of less athletic players. That is, becoming jumpshot orientated instead of driving to the basket. The flipside is players like James Harden and Kyrie Irving having elite talent driving to the basket that exceeds their very good athleticism. Their ballhandling helps them play like they are elite athletes for their position.

Because of this, I am not convinced Wiggins is a better NBA slasher than Stauskas. Wiggins is an elite athlete, but appears to be a flawed ballhandler which can cause him to struggle to get by opponents in the halfcourt. Stauskas is a good if unspectacular athlete, showing the first step and speed to get to the basket. However he adds to this very strong ballhandling skills. Because of this he succeeds driving to the basket. This is why despite Andrew Wiggins greater athleticism, Wiggins’ average of 7.7 free throw attempts per 40 minutes is marginally ahead of Stauskas’ 7.2.

Wiggins’ physical gifts however do make him a higher upside defender. Wiggins has the lateral mobility, length and feel for the game to be one of the best wing defenders in the league. Stauskas is not known for his play on that end, but many young players struggle defensively for reasons beyond lacking the tools for it. He has years to learn to be respectable or even above average defensively.

Both Wiggins and Stauskas are among the more fluid and natural wing players in the NCAA. Both play under control and smoothly. I personally rate Stauskas feel for the game as slightly higher, having an advanced sense of craftiness and ability to change pace and adjust off the dribble.

Stauskas is the more reliable shooting prospect of the two. Hitting 46.2% from 3 on an excellent 6.7 3 point attempts per 40 minutes, he is one of the NCAA’s signature shooters. He shows ability to shoot off the dribble in addition to spotting up. Stauskas also has a free throw percentage of 80.0% after 84.3% last year, which I consider as strong an indicator as NCAA 3 point shooting for perimeter mechanics translating to the pros. Finally with 4.4 assists per 40 minutes Stauskas has strong passing skills for a 2/3.

Wiggins is not a slouch as a shooter. At 36.6% from 3 on 4.5 3pt attempts per 40 minutes and 77.9% from the FT line, it is enough to have a high upside as a shooter. However, there is a sense of unpredictability with a shooter with Wiggins’ numbers. He could turn into a great shooter or he could turn into a mediocre one. The odds of Wiggins turning into a great shooter could be the same as Stauskas turning into an elite shooter. In addition to the passing I see reason to rate Stauskas talent as higher in this category, but Wiggins has shown enough to be promising from the outside.

Therefore here are my talent grades for Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas with these grades

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Andrew Wiggins

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Nik Stauskas

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 8 / Great

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 24 (Blue Chip starter to perennial all-star talent grade)

Andrew Wiggins is a very good wing prospect. I expect him to be a great defender in the pros, but I am not positive about his offensive game. The way players like Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala has helped teams win is what I would predict for Wiggins unless he becomes a dominant outside shooter.

Stauskas rates higher in my system. His ability to drive when added to perimeter shooting and feel, could make him a deadly all around force on the wing. I believe Stauskas can be the next James Harden or Manu Ginobili and I am leaning towards rating him 1st overall on my draft board.

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Written by jr.

January 31, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Looking at the Bobcats’ coming improvement in 2013-2014

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The Bobcats have become the league’s punching back the last few years, with the all-time bad 7-59 season after the lockout followed by a still dreadful 21-61 last season. Over the last 3 seasons they’ve managed to put together a group of young prospects like Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, but they are widely expected to be bad again, even after signing Al Jefferson to a huge contract.

I feel the Bobcats could make a large leap next year. Here’s why:

First, the Bobcats continued their long offensive incompetence by finishing 28th in the league with a 101.5 ORTG. Of the Bobcats’ roughly 8708 possessions (using FGA + .44*FTA + TOV), here is the distribution between the players:

 

Players over league average 105.9 ORTG (using Dean Oliver’s individual ORTG):

Gerald Henderson 1101 poss (12.64%) – 107 ORTG

Ramon Sessions 933 poss (10.71%) – 109 ORTG

Jeffrey Taylor 492 poss (5.65%) – 107 ORTG

Josh McRoberts 158 poss (1.81%) – 113 ORTG

 

Players under league average ORTG, but over the Bobcats’ 101.5 ORTG:

Kemba Walker 1607 poss (18.45%) – 105 ORTG

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 765 poss (8.78%) – 102 ORTG

Jeff Adrien 244 poss (2.80%) – 105 ORTG

Reggie Williams 160 poss (1.84%) – 102 ORTG

 

Players under the Bobcats’ 101.5 ORTG:

Ben Gordon 952 poss (10.93%) – 96 ORTG

Byron Mullens 681 poss (7.82%) – 94 ORTG

Bismack Biyombo 490 poss (5.63%) – 98 ORTG

Brendan Haywood 295 poss (3.39%) – 95 ORTG

Hakim Warrick 230 poss (2.64%) – 94 ORTG

Jannero Pargo 174 poss (2.0%) – 96 ORTG

Tyrus Thomas 167 poss (1.92%) – 88 ORTG

Desagana Diop 35 poss (0.42%) – 74 ORTG

Cory Higgins 20 poss (0.23%) – 90 ORTG

It’s easy to see what an offensive disaster the Bobcats frontcourt was. Mullens, Biyombo, Haywood, Warrick, Thomas and Diop combined for just under 22% of the possessions at a disastrous efficiency.

Al Jefferson used about 1436 possessions at 109 ORTG last year, above league average and way above the Bobcats’ average last year. Furthermore McRoberts who was added late last season, had great efficiency in a small sample size. Cody Zeller was one of the most efficient players in the NCAA last year, making it reasonable to expect at least average ORTG next year. The Bobcats also signed Anthony Tolliver who had a 102 ORTG last year on 274 possessions. Overall, the Bobcats should replace many inefficient possessions in the frontcourt with average or better ones. Bismack Biyombo will likely still be in the rotation among inefficient players, but is young and could hypothetically improve.

Other than the bigs, Ben Gordon’s combination of volume and inefficiency also killed the Bobcats. It’s unclear how much Gordon will play this year, but the Bobcats would be wise to sit him down and replace his minutes with Jeffrey Taylor, who’s both more productive on both ends and a young player worth developing. The Bobcats are also not done filling their roster and could sign more wing depth to take Gordon’s minutes.

Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist improving their slightly below average efficiency is also plausible, if they improve their shooting and general experience.

Overall, a lot is pointing towards the Bobcats offense getting a lot better this year, if not jumping all the way to league average.

What about defense? The Bobcats finished a dreadful 30th in DRTG last year. Certainly Al Jefferson is not known as a defensive ace and nor should rookie Cody Zeller or Josh McRoberts. However, it’s hard to expect they’d get any worse defensively in the frontcourt, with both their 30th DRTG and Byron Mullens taking so many minutes up front last year. Biyombo has the physical tools to be a good defender, thus if he doesn’t start making an impact on that end this season to compliment Jefferson, he may as well pack his bags for another league early.

More important defensively is the perimeter. Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have great athleticism and motors, which should presumably lead to them to pressuring the other team defensively. Jeffrey Taylor also has defensive potential due to his positional intelligence. The Bobcats perimeter is built to be their defensive core and hypothetically, are a great defensive fit beside Jefferson and Zeller up front. Defense is also an area where making Gordon a DNP player or buying him out would help. It’s also possible that Mike Dunlap was out of his element as a coach in the NBA and is responsible for their dreadful defense last year, while Steve Clifford could provide an improvement. As a whole, amount of perimeter athletes the Bobcats have drafted lately could pan out on the defensive end this season. They may not be a great defensive team, but production closer to average next year shouldn’t be a shock.

Simply replacing all the inefficient offensive players with average players on that end, could be enough to push the Bobcats towards 30 wins. When adding in the potential for players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo taking their careers to another level, or a dramatic turnaround in team defense, the Bobcats could really make a rapid turnaround. My guess is that the Bobcats are closer to the 10th pick in the draft than 1st next year and that they have a puncher’s chance at challenging the playoffs. The most favorable comparison for the Bobcats would be the 2009-2010 Grizzlies, who improved to 40-42 after 24-58 the season before and a string of losing seasons before that. That Grizzlies improvement was spurned on by the addition of Zach Randolph and development of players like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, Jr. improving the offense, while Lionel Hollins’ system and internal development lead to a defensive improvement. The Grizzlies didn’t make the playoffs that year, but they surprised by becoming respectable, foreshadowing great success in following seasons.

Written by jr.

August 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

A few NBA playoffs thoughts

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I had a few things to do the last few days, so I didn’t put up a proper playoff prediction article. My thoughts on the playoffs are hardly interesting. I see Miami over New York in the Eastern Conference Final and Oklahoma City over San Antonio in the Western Conference one, then Miami taking out Oklahoma City in the Finals. In the 1st round the only lower seed I took was Golden State over Denver, but David Lee’s season ending injury puts a hitch in that.

A few brief thoughts:

– I have a hard time seeing OKC beating Miami in the Final if they meet. Miami’s athleticism defensively is perfectly built to defend OKC’s dribble drive offense, whereas their ball movement can pick apart the Thunder’s athletic style of defense. I see the best way to beat Miami, is spacing out their defense with 3 point shooting like the 2011 Mavericks did. Defensively I suspect perfect positioning as essential to defending them. This all points to the Spurs as a great fit to challenge them, but also the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Final.

– Despite all the red flags such as Vinny Del Negro and too offensively orientated a roster, the Clippers are my Finals/title darkhorse. The Clippers played at a 59 win pace with Paul in the lineup and that Paul played 33.4 minutes per game and Griffin 32.5 is encouraging, as both those numbers can be supercharged upwards in the playoffs. Furthermore I believe Chris Paul is one of the 20 most talented players of all time and historically, players and talents on that level, are the guys who’ve written the rules of what works in the playoffs. A player of Paul’s talent on his best team to date, should be feared.

– I’d be selling stock on Denver instead of buying if I could. The Nuggets are a flawed halfcourt team due to a lack of skill polish and shooting. This is one of the all time George Karl teams and that includes why his teams largely have underwhelmed in the plaoyffs.

– Other than Miami/Milwaukee and Oklahoma City/Houston, Brooklyn vs Chicago looked like the biggest mismatch even before the blowout first game. Tom Thibodeau would get my coach of the year vote for winning 45 games with this team, but in the playoffs teams cannot escape their talent and the Bulls just don’t have enough going offensively, especially from the guard position. The Bulls are a team that needs to shut down teams defensively to win and the Nets in particular have the individual talents to make that very difficult.

– I could see every game in Oklahoma City/Houston being a double digit win for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is perfectly engineered to guard the Rockets, since the two things the Rockets like to do is dribble into the paint, which is death against the Thunder’s athleticism and rotations – and to create points in transition and of course a team can’t outrun the Thunder. I see the Rockets offense shriveling up and dieing in this series.

– Knicks/Celtics going into the series, felt like it’d either be a blowout for the Knicks or the Celtics winning. I’d argue the way to guard the Knicks is to let Melo shoot as much as possible, while covering the 3pt shooters. Either Boston traps the Knicks into this heroball box, or the Knicks move the ball and rain 3s on their defense, leaving Boston’s inferior offense too much to catch up.

– The Lakers can’t guard the Spurs ball movement. Their perimeter players are too slow to get to those 3pt shooters. As great as the Spurs are, the Thunder and Heat are simply awful matchups for them because they have the rare speed and length needed to rotate to that ball movement and throw the Spurs off their game. If the Thunder don’t make the Finals, I see the Clippers or Grizzlies taking them out, not the Spurs.

Enjoy the playoffs!

Written by jr.

April 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Why I believe Jeremy Lamb will be a superstar

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Jeremy Lamb Dribble

Jeremy Lamb Dribble (Photo credit: American Odyssey)

The James Harden to Houston trade fascinated me, because as I wrote at the time, I felt both Harden and Jeremy Lamb had outright superstar potential. I realize I’ve never written a longer explanation of why I’m so high on Lamb, ranking him neck and neck with Anthony Davis in last year’s draft.

For one, Lamb’s feel for the game isn’t just good or great, it’s incredible. Like one of the best in the league incredible. He’s among the most supernaturally smooth and natural offensive players in years, drawing Tracy McGrady comparisons for just how easy it looks for him.

I see his skill impact upside as nearly unlimited. He has deep range with a jumpshot that simply looks perfect, excelling in college both spot up and off the dribble from 3. In the D League he’s shot an impressive 36% from 3 considering he’s adjusting to a longer line. Scarily, he’s at a 90% clip from the FT line (63 for 70 attempts). FT shooters in the 85 to 90% range if he stays there, are often the league’s elite shooters. Lamb may not be a guarantee to be among the league’s best perimeter skill players and shooters, but his potential in the area is as good as it gets.

Finally, Lamb has considerable upside as a slasher. He has an explosive first step, which when combined with elite ballhandling makes him more than able to get to the basket. He also has excellent size for a wing and amazing length, helping him finish and giving him huge defensive potential.

Adding it all together, Lamb has a terrifying combination of talents. My talent grades for him is 11 in feel for the game, 9 or 10 in skill impact and 8 or 9 in physical impact. That leads to a total of 28-30, when 24 or 25 is enough for me to call a player a perennial all-star talent. Lamb’s score is in the mix with Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis among recent Hall of Fame caliber talents.

Furthermore, I’m shocked there isn’t more people that can just “see it” with Lamb. The guy overwhelmingly passes the eye test for a future star wing. Take this clip of a D League game:

 

It’s all there. The shooting, the ballhandling, the ability to get where-ever he wants on the court and of course, the “on a different level” feel and smoothness to his offense. To be blunt, obvious star talent is obvious.

In my mind the only thing that can hold Jeremy Lamb back is himself, as a player flagged for motor inconsistency for years. But Lamb is so talented that even if he has “the T-mac gene”, I expect him to produce well in the category of stardom.

The Thunder getting this guy is scary. I wrote an article earlier today about how the Thunder are sitting on a top 10 point differential of all time and what it means for their title chances – if that’s where they are right now, now imagine adding a shooting guard talent in the realm of an Irving or Davis to that core, a player who happens to fit the team perfectly stylistically with his shooting and floor spacing. The closest comparable may be the Lakers getting to add the 1982 #1 overall pick James Worthy to a squad with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar already on it.

Prepare for doom.

Written by jr.

March 12, 2013 at 3:20 am

Two breakout players for whom I’m not drinking the kool-aid: Eric Bledsoe and Tristan Thompson

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Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11

Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve followed this blog you know that I have my own talent evaluation system, based on grading players 1/3 on tools that physically impact the game, 1/3 tools that impact the game through a skill level (mostly shooting) and 1/3 what is commonly referred to as feel for the game, a relative but not duplicate of basketball IQ. (The problem with using “basketball IQ” is that players with a strong feel for the game may play stupid for reasons that aren’t related to talent – instead originating from character flaws like selfishness, nerves, etc. Feel for the Game is a slightly more innate and talent based term)

If I’m correct, I should be able to use this talent evaluating system to pick out the “small sample size tricksters”. Over the years there’s been plenty of players who’ve “broken out” and put up near star numbers, but only for a short period of time. Eventually a combination of natural regression and teams’ scouting catches up to them and they fall back to being the frustrating players they were before. Most players can play well for a time, but much less can keep it up consistently.

This year there are two players that have played great in bursts statistically, who don’t pass the sniff test to me: Eric Bledsoe and Tristan Thompson. Bledsoe came flying out of the gate over the 20 PER mark, while he’s slowed down since then his overall stats of 18.3 PER and 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per 36 minutes, is excellent for a 3rd year guard who just turned 23. After flatlining for the frst season and a half of his career, Tristan Thompson averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds a game in January, extremely impressive for a player who’s just 21. Enough for many to say he may go 2nd in the 2011 draft if redone today. Both players have people whispering about all-star upside. After all, if they’re impressive this much at a young age, they can only go up from here right? Not so fast. While it’s more fun to believe every player and high draft pick is a star in the making, the reality is the majority of them don’t break free of the peloton.

Breaking them down, first off both grade well in regards to physically impacting plays. Bledsoe is a marvel of a physical talent, with an elite combination of blinding speed and hulking strength, allowing him to get to the rim at will and allowing him to disrupt the game defensively. If he’s not in Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and John Wall’s class in regards to making plays with his physical tools for a PG (He lacks their size), he’s just a step behind. Tristan on the other hand has excellent explosiveness for a big man, allowing him to attack the basket. While playing C as he has since Anderson Varejao went down, he gives up size but contains speed that’s even harder to stop by the competition. Tristan isn’t amazing at physical impact talent like Bledsoe is, but we’ll call him above average at either PF or C.

What I don’t like about either player is their feel for the game. Bledsoe is one of those players who seems like he’s playing “too fast”, exploding with a head of steam to the basket without the control to probe the game or make decisions on the fly. Bledsoe is like a bucking horse that’s hard to reel in, which draws comparisons to Russell Westbrook – another player who’s feel for the game I consider below average for the point guard position. Tristan Thompson likewise is rough around the edges for a big man. He often can look robotic and stiff and rough around the edges, instead of a natural and smooth player on the offensive end. Both players make reading and probing the game look hard instead of easy.

That leaves plays created by skill. Eric Bledsoe was awful shooting the ball his first two seasons in the league, but has improved this year under the tutelage of Chris Paul. His 3pt shooting of 36.4% is average instead of poor, albeit it’s on a small sample size of 44 attempts this year. He still lacks a midrange game, with hoopdata indicating he’s shooting 26.0% from 16-23 feet and 36.4% from 10-15 feet. Most encouraging is his FT% jumping to 81.3%, though once again a sample size of 96 attempts is rather small. Bledsoe is certainly not a player that is trusting as a shooter or jumpshot creator from midrange or from 3 and is likely left open for most of his 3pt attempts. He looks to be headed to somewhere between average and below average for plays created by skill for a PG, in my opinion. As for Thompson, while lacks ability in the post or shooting range, he does have superb hands and an array of ways to finish around the basket and is an impressive ballhandler for a big man. I would say Tristan Thompson’s skill level is around average for a power forward, but above average for a center.

Considering this, it’s hard for me to justify grading them as all-star talents. On my scale of 1 to 11 (with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 as possible grades), I would give Bledsoe a grade of 9 in physical impact talent, 3 in skill impact talent and 3 in feel for the game based on the above analysis, for an overall grade of 15, which grades out as a relevant career, but only a borderline starting caliber player. Scores of about 19 and above is what I consider “blue chip” starting caliber players, while scores of around 23 and above is when players become perennial all-star caliber talents. Bledsoe’s best chance to be a break through to that blue chip starter to all-star caliber range is for his shooting and perimeter skill game to take great leaps forward, to where it’s decidedly a weapon. When added to his amazing athleticism, this would make him a vicious combination of slashing and perimeter shooting, enough to be a near star even with an underwhelming feel for the game. Russell Westbrook would be the model to follow for Bledsoe here. I do not like Westbrook’s feel for the game any more than Bledsoe’s, but the combination of his all time great physical tools for his position and respectable shooting stroke still make him a blue chip player. The player who’s career Bledsoe might end up resembling most is Devin Harris, who like him was a supersub on an elite team while in Dallas, before going to his own squad in New Jersey. Harris actually a spectacular all-star season his first year in New Jersey, but both his dramatic fall-off since and my personal evaluation of his talent tell me that year was somewhat of a fluke, probably let on by teams not catching up scouting report wise to him yet. Harris to me has an unimpressive feel for the game and inconsistent perimeter skill level, so despite a dynamic ability to penetrate and attack the basket, in my opinion it’s not enough.

My grades for Tristan Thompson assuming his long term position is PF, is 7 in physical impact talent, 5 in skill impact talent and 3 in feel for the game. (At center he has a more impressive skill level but gives a bit back physically.) Like Bledsoe this gives him a grade of 15, making him a useful talent but not a standout starter or all-star. Like Bledsoe if he has any chance of breaking out to that blue chipper status, it’s if his skill game can make a huge leap upward for the position, which would happen with Tristan developing a Carlos Boozer-like perimeter jumpshot and skill game. My guess though is Tristan ends up having a career resembling Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, energy big men who’s athleticism and decent ability to score (both have better jumpshots than Tristan is likely to develop, but Tristan has better touch and ball-handling) helped them carve out nice careers, but as players more suited to be a signature backup big man on a great team.

Written by jr.

February 2, 2013 at 4:17 am

2013 NBA Draft Big Board update – February 2013

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My prospect talent rankings midway through the college season. My talent grading system is based on 1/3 how much a player physically impacts the game, 1/3 his skill impacts the game and 1/3 his feel for the game, with each category being scored out of 11 and a maximum total of 33. I have slightly changed my grading method to where I only give grades of 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 in each category, more specific grades than that are unnecessary and hard to grade with the uncertainty of college prospects. A more detailed (though slightly dated) description of my talent evaluation can be found here.

1. C Alex Len – 23 (Borderline perennial all-star talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 7, Skill impact talent grade: 9, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

A great bet on the offensive end due to his inside-outside skill and smooth feel. Has the length and athleticism to anchor a defense one day. Not a transcendent prospect, but a complete package at C.

2. PF Anthony Bennett – 23 (Borderline perennial all-star talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 7, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Very impressive pound for pound talent for a PF. Explosiveness and strong enough to attack the basket, with the ability to step back and hit the perimeter shot to open his game. Great feel for the game, showing the craftiness and smoothness to adjust on the dribble. Has high potential in the post. Might be a 20/10 big man in the making.

3. PF Isaiah Austin – 23 (Borderline perennial all-star talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 9, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Elite combination of inside-outside perimeter skill and feel for a power forward prospect give him immense offensive talent. Doesn’t have the size or explosiveness to impact the game physically at an elite level, but has decent length. Can be one of the best offensive bigs in the league and is somewhat of a poor man’s Dirk.

4. SF Le’Bryan Nash – 23 (Borderline perennial all-star talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 9, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

A player who’s production in college makes it understandably uncertain whether he’ll reach his talent level and upside, but I believe that talent is enormous. Combination of elite speed/size for a SF, a high upside in skill level (as shown by his impressive post game and midrange shot for a 3) and an excellent, smooth feel for the game. At times looks like a lesser Carmelo Anthony. Trick with Nash is determining whether his lack of college production comes from him being enigmatic, or simply his game not fitting college.

5. C Rudy Gobert – 21 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 9, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

Very high shotblocking upside due to his all-time great 7’9 wingspan and is an excellent athlete for a C. Great hands leading to a supernaturally high FG% on his French team. Appears to be a high IQ, aware player. If he reaches his upside, could be Tyson Chandler-like on the offensive end while leading the league in blocks, which would make him a monster.

6. SG Ben McLemore – 21 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 9, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

An incredible shooting talent, putting up elite numbers both from 3pt and FT% in college. Great athleticism, but lack of great ball-handling could prevent him from top notch slashing and physically impacting the game. Nice IQ, particularly moving off the ball. Needs to attack the basket to be an elite SG, but has a chance to be a true blue chip SG who fits in any lineup.

7. PG Marcus Smart – 21 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 7, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Impressive mix of size and athleticism should help him penetrate and create plays in the NBA. Great vision and feel for the game for a PG. His upside depends on his shooting game. If he can hit the 3 consistently he’ll be the full package for a PG.

8. PF/C Cody Zeller – 21 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

High skill and feel should make him a go-to player offensively. Lack of strength and length is a problem on the defensive end, though Cody does have explosiveness. Most likely situation to me is that he ends up a team’s version of Greg Monroe, not a franchise player, but a rock solid offensive building block.

9. PF C.J. Leslie – 21 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 7, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

One of the best athletes in the draft, simply beautiful explosiveness for a 6’8+ power forward. Elite feel for the game, looks smooth and able to pick apart the space defenses give him offensively. Needs to improve his perimeter range and touch and will need to commit to playing PF inside SF, but has massive upside if it all comes together.

10.  PF Nerlens Noel – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 11, Skill impact talent grade: 3, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5)

An amazing athlete, with his explosiveness and length helping him put up freakish shotblocking numbers. Due to rarity of shotblocking at PF, could have historic physical impact on the game at the PF position. Lacks high end skill or feel. Raw outside of finishing shots around the basket in skill and while having decent defensive awareness, does not look smooth or natural offensively. Should have an impact career but don’t love him as a future star.

11.  C Jeff Withey – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Underrated athleticism, can be legitimately explosive at times. I don’t expect his shotblocking to translate to the NBA without elite length. Has a growing offensive game including a midrange jump shot. His strength however is his tremendous IQ and awareness on the defensive end. While it’s high praise, his situation looks like a version of Joakim Noah coming out of Florida to me.

12.  SF Sergey Karasev – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 3, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Not an elite athlete, but can occasionally get to the rim due to his excellent ballhandling. Having a great 3pt shooting season and is a perimeter shot creator. Very impressive IQ and feel for the game, has a great recognition of his teammates. Due to relative rarity of 3pt shooting SFs in a league increasingly embracing spacing from the position, I see Karasev being a long term starter and blue chip player at the position.

13.  SG/SF Jamaal Franklin – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 7, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

Excellent physical talent for a SG, with great size and explosiveness and the ballhandling to get to the basket. Inconsistent shooting, but has shown NCAA 3pt range and can get hot from outside. Good IQ and feel for the game, looking comfortable and smooth on both ends much of the time. If he can shoot well enough, good chance of starting in the NBA for a while.

14.  PG Trey Burke – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 3, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9)

Undersized and lacks explosiveness, but great ballhandling helps him get to the basket respectably, avoiding a rock bottom 1 in physical impact talent. Good outside shooter with the potential to be great, plus an excellent passer. His strength is his elite feel for the game and awareness, looking comfortable running an offense and keeping the pulse of his teammates. Depending on his shooting, has a nice shot at being a starting PG long term.

15.  SG Nick Johnson – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

An undersized SG, but one who makes up for it by playing way above the rim with his explosiveness and his tenacity. Improving outside shooter and shot creator. Nice feel for the game and craftiness off the dribble. In my opinion, has the talent to be a standout shooter/scorer in the NBA.

16.  SG C.J. McCollum – 19 (Blue Chip starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 3, Skill impact talent grade: 9, Feel for the Game talent: 7)

McCollum is an undersized SG, but is one of the best shooters in the draft and has a chance to be one of the best shooters in the NBA. Excellent shot creator for a guard. Because of a lack of size and elite athleticism will likely stick to the perimeter, unable to make an elite physical impact on the game by slashing to the basket. Feel for the Game appears to be very good and natural.

17.  C Willie Cauley-Stein – 17 (Borderline starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 9, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3)

Excellent physical tools for a C, with both elite athleticism and length. Needs to develop physically but has a respectable frame. Can finish around the basket and shows flashes of offensive skill in the post. Has an underwhelming feel for the game, often looking raw and unnatural on both ends.

18.  SF Alex Poythress – 17 (Borderline starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 9, Skill impact talent grade: 3, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5)

Poythress has superb physical tools for a small forward, with a great mix of size and explosiveness allowing him to get to the rim and finish. His skill game is fairly raw, being able to hit spot up shots at times but not create his own shot. Has an average feel for the game and awareness of the game/teammates. May end up stuck between the SF and PF positions.

19.  PF James Michael McAdoo – 17 (Borderline starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 5, Skill impact talent grade: 5, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

James Michael McAdoo has impressive athleticism and strength for a power forward, but is short for the position which could hurt his ability to attack the rim and finish. He has very good touch around the basket but lacks consistent shooting range. His biggest strength is his feel for the game as a smooth, natural offensive player. He has the tools to be a solid but probably underwhelming power forward.

20.  PF Mike Moser – 17 (Borderline starter talent) (Physical impact talent grade: 3, Skill impact talent grade: 7, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7)

Impressive skill level for a power forward, with the ability to hit a perimeter shot and handle the ball well. Good feel for the game offensively, can make offense look natural. Biggest issue is being a very undersized PF will likely push him to the perimeter instead of letting him attack the rim and physically impact the game. May be pushed to the SF position.

Just missed: SG Archie Goodwin, SF Shabazz Muhammad, SF Otto Porter, PG Michael Carter-Williams, PF Kelly Olynyk

Written by jr.

January 31, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Should the Celtics trade for Amar’e Stoudemire?

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Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks addre...

Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks addresses fans at the team’s open practice session in October 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With Amar’e Stoudemire coming back from injury, all the talk is of what to do with him. The Knicks have clearly been successful without him, starting 21-8. A key to this is Carmelo playing at the 4 beside Tyson Chandler, the two providing a perfect harmony of offensive spacing and mobile defense. Carmelo and Amar’e have never been able to win while on the court together. The offensive chemistry and synergy between them is impossible with their style of ball-needing play. While Amar’e seems destined to come off the bench when he returns, this does not fix the issue. Carmelo, Amar’e and Chandler will need to play together a certain portion of the game – and I suspect Stoudemire will want to finish games and play the end of 4th quarters. Coming off the bench is one thing, but being benched in “winning time” is arguably an even bigger slight to star player’s egos.

Trading Amar’e is the natural move, the problem is he has the single worst contract in the league. At 2 years/45 million owed after this season, if his health issues prevent him from playing at a star level, he will be a massive albatross.

Here’s the team I like for Stoudemire: The Boston Celtics. Boston has started a disappointing 14-14 and looks in no way like a title contender this year. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are still effective, the problem is the rest of the team. All of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger are performing poorly. The Celtics frontcourt in particular has been ineffective aside from Garnett. I’m of the belief that when you have old stars like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, you should push all in to try and win the title. Because having players that effective is a scarce asset and it can take decades to contend for a title again after they’re gone. The Celtics only being a .500 team in a year they expected to compete for a title is a huge failure from that perspective.

The thing about the Celtics is that they’re loaded with long term deals. Jeff Green is owed 3 years/27.1 million after this season and may be a below league average player, Brandon Bass is owed 2 years/13.7 million after the season, Courtney Lee is owed 3 years/16.3 million after this year. Combine those 3 poor contracts together and financially, it’s almost an exact match for Stoudemire’s salary. The Green, Bass and Lee combination is owed 19.6 million in 2012-2013,  20.65 million in 2013-2014, 21.6 million in 2014-2015 and 14.9 million in 2015-2016. Amar’e is owed 19.5 million in 2012-2013, 21.7 million in 2013-2014, and 23.4 million in 2014-2015. Because the Knicks do not likely have room for 3 extra players in their rotation, especially an extra wing defender like Lee, a logical swap would be sending back Ronnie Brewer and 1.1 million expiring contract. Brewer has been losing minutes lately due to his lack of shooting and would be replaceable by Lee.

So the Knicks move on from their Amar’e conundrum and get a legitimate backup big who’s OK being a backup in Bass and give Green a try at SF and PF, while replacing Brewer with Lee. All of these pieces are more moveable in upcoming years than Amar’e himself. The important part though is avoiding the potential chemistry nuke of an unhappy Amar’e returning and being benched in 4th quarters.

As for the Celtics, they hope Amar’e can spark them to contention this year. With Terry, Pierce, Amar’e and Garnett, the Celtics would have tremendous offensive spacing for Rondo to play with. They would have an extra scorer to match up with Miami, Chicago and New York’s tough defense in the playoffs. Defensively they would have to hope the team thank to Garnett can get back to the heights they were in previous years. Getting Ronnie Brewer back may help that as well. Overall, it’s a gamble, but one that doesn’t cost them anything financially and they’re in a position where they need to take chances, if they want to compete for a Finals berth again this year. With Rondo, Pierce and Garnett on the team they can’t be far away from contending again. One more big gun could do it.

Written by jr.

December 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm